GOSM: Pros and Cons of water VS. sand

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Meat Mopper
Original poster
OTBS Member
Feb 6, 2006
I have read use water or use sand in the GOSM but no one states the merits of water VS. sand. So I am now wondering what they are.

To me, a novice...

Water have to refill as it evaporates, sand never has to be refilled.

Water makes the meat moister, sand does not. I am at a loss here as I never have used water in any other smoker.

What are some more pros and cons?


The main function for the water or sand is to act as thermal mass in smokers where the temperature has a tendency to fluctuate. This mainly happens in smaller cookers that use wood or charcoal products as fuel. Iâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]ve used sand only a couple times in an old bullet type smoker.

WATER: You can add preheated water so that little fuel is used to heat it. If temperatures get too hot from a spike you can add cold water to help control it. Some folks recommend adding flavored liquids or aromatic herbs and spices to the water (Iâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]ve never noticed a benefit from this).

SAND: Takes a while to heat and must be heated by your smoker. If temperatures get too hot from a spike it takes much longer to cool off. Must be covered by foil to keep grease dripping from soaking into the sand and becoming rancid.

In the case of the GOSM smoker, because it is propane fired and the temperatures pretty much stay rock solid, and recover quickly after opening the door, thermal mass is not a real big benefit of the water pan. In fact some people cook without anything in the pan. I donâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]t recommend an empty pan though because drippings will burn and possibly cause a flare-up. What the water pan does in the GOSM smoker is shield the food from cooking directly over the fire. It diffuses the heat and smoke and keeps the bottom of the meat from burning.

Although I havenâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]t tried sand in a GOSM smoker, Iâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]m sure it would work. Donâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]t fill the pan to the brim with sand as it would cause grease to overflow into the fire. Leave the sand at least 1 inch below the rim of the bowl and cover the pan & sand with a couple layers of heavy duty aluminum foil (to make clean-up easy and to keep the sand clean).

I prefer to use water. I line the water pan with foil before filling it. Then after it cools I dump the water and trash the foil. Clean-up is pretty easy.

Extra thermal mass is not needed in large steel or masonry smokers because the body of the smoker has plenty of mass already. That's why the big rigs can hold steady temperatures.
The other purpose of the water pan (I've yet to see any manufacturer call it a sand pan, that tells me a lot), is to provide a barrier between the heat and the meat to allow for indirect cooking in a small cooker.
Adding stuff other than water to the pan, can make the immediate area smell great, but won't flavor the meat. A water pan doesn't do anything for moistening the meat either. Any fire, especially a propane fire, will release significant amounts of water vapor in the smoke. At the temps in an operating cooker, with or without the waterpan, the air in the cooker is generally saturated anyway.
Moist finished product comes from a brining, a good rub that preserves existing moisture, proper cooking temps and getting it off the fire when its done.
As I said above, they call it a water pan, that's because it should have water in it. Sand goes in a catbox.
Cool, I appreciate the time both of you spent in educating me

Guess I don't want any kitty droppings in there so I will stick with water. In all seriousness, thank you.

One other question on water. Temp. will be around 225-250. How long would a pan of water last in the gosm wide body?

Thanks again,

Brian check the water pan at least every two hours. You don't want to wait untill all the water is gone before refilling. If the pan dries out the hot grease drippings that have accumulated could burst into flames. Also adding water to a dry pan can cause a steam cloud which could burn you or cause grease drippings in the pan to pop and splatter which can also cause burns. Refilling the water pan before it dries up prevents these dangers. Always add hot water so you don't suck the heat out of your smoker with cold water.
Thanks Bob. I appreciate the knowledge.

Take care,

Reflect, The key to adding water is to add HOT Water. I just use hot tap water, but I some who will boil it first then add it to the pan.
When I first started smokin' on my Brinkmann Smoke King Deluxe, I used the water pan to correct my short comings in fire control by adding ice if the temps got outta hand or boiling water if they started to drop too far.

My less than glowing comments on sand are mostly tongue in cheek. Some people just don't like having to clean up the water/grease in the pan and find sand easier.
Thermally, I don't think there's much difference at smokin' temps, although in a non-gas fired cooker, the water probably provides a better buffer for a beginner as the sand will hold more heat and not boil off as steam.
That's why I line my water pan with HD aluminum foil. :D Now if I can just find a pre formed aluminum foil pan that's a perfect fit for my water pan, I'd really be happy! 8)
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